Power Eating for Executives and Entrepreneurs – Enhancing and Sustaining Energy (2 of 4)

Sustaining high levels of energy is key to performance

Sustaining high levels of energy is key to performance

Many of us have watched a 400m race where an enthusiastic youngster sprints out of the blocks and blasts down the backstretch and we think to ourselves ‘him must buss’, and by the time the fellow gets to the home stretch he is all but crawling, and the cadets run onto the field with the stretcher to haul him off in ignominy. This should not be your day or your week. How can you not ‘buss’ by 2:00pm or have to ask yourself on Wednesday if it’s not Friday yet.

So we know about coffee and Redbull and other such ‘energy drinks’. I was myself able to get through business school courtesy of Mountain Dew and my new found favorite is 5 Hour Energy. But since I am trying to make a living, not kill myself, I have been forced to look at more wholesome ways of enhancing and sustaining energy.

As in the case of athletes, the types, amounts and timing of food you eat plays an important role in raising and sustaining your daily energy levels.

Before getting into any details, let me offer this piece of advice for immediate results; avoid ethnic fatigue by staying away from large meals high in fat and calories, which sap your energy as they are being digested. Our work culture does not formally recognize siestas so put yourself in a better position to work through the immediate post lunch part of the day.

That being said, here are the foods I have found helpful in supporting energy levels.


First and foremost, Carbohydrates. Now not all carbohydrates are created equal. Try to stick with whole grains and complex carbohydrates which break down well into glucose which is the only energy source for the brain and central nervous system.

Brown rice and Quinoa are excellent sources of complex carbs and both also contain Manganese which plays an important role in producing energy from carbohydrates and proteins.

Delicious Quinoa

Delicious Quinoa

Try sweet potatoes which are an easy ‘take to the office meal’. They’re easy to prepare and also have high levels of Vitamins A and C. Forsake the condense milk and try a spoonful of honey instead. Honey has a low glycemic index (which is good) and releases its energy throughout the day as opposed to giving sugar highs (and lows).

In addition to providing the energy I need, carbohydrates also give me a sense of being full so that I can get my brain out of my belly and into my work without exhausting my stores of willpower. So on to snacks for energy. With my beloved Snickers bar gone the way of my Mountain Dew how do I fill the void created by the departure of this power bar – water, fruits and vegetables.

Thirst masquerades as hunger so save yourself from overeating by ensuring that you are always hydrated. We can live a disturbingly long time without food, but not without water. Water makes up anywhere from 50% to 75% of our bodies and is needed for just about every single bodily function so drink.

Combat thirst with coconut water

Combat thirst with coconut water

If you are sitting in an air conditioned office in New York all day you may need less water than if you took a Bikram Yoga class in Kingston before spending the day visiting construction sites around the city. I am comfortable with water, perhaps even coconut water if I will not be too far from a toilet, and Gatorade is on my edge of tolerance. I have even been known to rip Pedialyte from the mouths of babes and sucklings in the name of hydration.

I am grateful for Coca Cola’s sponsorship of the World Cup, and admire their value chain management and corporate social responsibility, but their products, and similar products, including bag juice and Bigga do not count to what we are trying to do here (I hasten to confess that I grew up on Kool Kat and Sky Juice but we learn as we go).

Snack on fruits throughout the day. They provide an immediate bump in glucose which the body can easily convert into energy. Bananas provide a quick source of energy through its high levels of glucose fructose and sucrose. Combine bananas with oranges which provide a more sustained release of energy during the day. It’s a powerful combination. Next time you see a taxi driver buying oranges, and bananas at the stop light you’ll know why. You may also want to add apples to your snack list. They take longer than most other fruits to digest and therefore provide energy over a more sustained period of time.

My last piece of advice on this. If you are about to be left on an island for months to fend for yourself and you are offered the choice of one and only one fruit to take with you. Make it a pear (Avocado). This fruit is all good and covers all the nutritional areas we are interested in here.

Love those greens

Love those greens

Provide some variety for yourself by including greens in your meals. My favorite is spinach which provides some carbs and lots of iron for the production of energy. Beans provide further variety and are a good source of both carbohydrates and proteins.

On the subject of proteins, these are an essential source of energy food. If like myself, getting the preferred wild Pacific salmon presents some challenges try broiled chicken breast or steamed fish. For those of you who refuse to eat any (formerly) living creatures, you have plenty of excellent options including. Eggs (preferably whites), green peas, pumpkin seeds, greek yogurt, almonds, and edamame.

So now that you have all the energy you need, next I’ll cover what to eat to make sure you are mentally sharp enough to perform at a high level for sustained periods of time.

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